Rashid Johnson - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria Massimo De Carlo, Milan

  • Catalogue Essay

    I am interested in something to put something on. Like a vehicle that could marry contradictory symbols and signifiers so that they’re occupying the same space.

    (Rashid Johnson, in Miller, Michael H. ‘After Post-Black’, New York Observer, 26 July 2011, New York).

    Fly, 2011, is comprised of red oak planks branded with layers of charred symbols—circular, triangular, hollow, and solid. The oak planks, as if ripped from the floorboards of an abandoned house, are tattooed in a visual lexicon of which no literal translation exists. The symbols are first marked through the application of black soap. Once outlined, the areas are re-branded into the surface with a hot iron, leaving a permanent scar of intermingled signs. The wounds left on the boards vary in intensity–some rendering their victim completely burned, others leaving a scorched veil across the planks. The constellation of signs– from the geometric forms throughout to the slashes of burnt wood that cross vertically across the planks– seem to dance in a centrifugal motion around the diamond in the center. This central form, cleaner and more pure than any of the surrounding elements, exudes omnipotence as it holds its place in the galaxy of ambiguous hieroglyphics.

    In deciphering the mysteries of Fly, 2011, the composition evokes t he abstract, geometric shapes and patterns of traditional African textiles; however, instead of soft and malleable cotton, the shapes appear scattered across solid and uncompromising wood. The stationary and rigid material relates more closely to a cabinet de curiosités, enclosing the symbols as if intimate secrets or obscure mysteries. Here, the usually relegated basic material of wood, is elevated from its place on the floor— often disregarded—and is raised to the wall; the rich wood, charred surface, and gold highlights are now impossible to ignore as they entice, challenge, and even hypnotize. In this action the artist says, he is “giving agency to the last thing people notice, since the floor is almost always the last thing anyone considers.” (Rashid Johnson, in RUMBLE, Hauser & Wirth, New York, January 2012).



branded red oak flooring, black soap, wax, and gold paint
98 1/4 x 72 3/4 x 2 3/4 in. (249.6 x 184.8 x 7 cm)
Titled “FLY” upper right.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $182,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

15 November 2012
New York